Just a Bit O’ History… Psalm 73: A Meditation for the Weary, Bitter, and the Stumbling

2011-07-034Psalm 73

After the defeat of Montcontour, as they were carrying Admiral Coligny off the field, nearly suffocated by the blood of three wounds pouring into his closed visor, an old friend, who was being carried wounded beside him, repeated the first verse of this psalm,”

‘Si est ce que Dieu est tres doux’
‘Truly God is good to Israel,’

The historian adds, ‘That great captain confessed afterwards that this short word refreshed him, and put him in the way of good thoughts and firm resolutions for the future.’ If the whole psalm is read, it will be seen to be singularly suited to such an emergency; and so well were the psalms then known, that the first verse called up the whole.

Ver. 25. One of the most interesting records of the Covenanting time, is the diary of Mrs. Veitch, wife of one of the outlawed ministers who was imprisoned and exiled, and more than once in view of the scaffold. They survived all, and after the Revolution he became minister, first of Peebles and then of Dumfries, where he died. An extract from her journal may give some idea of the tenderness of heart that lay beneath the stern conscience of those times, and of the springs of simple faith in personal experience which refreshed and strengthened them in their endurance for principle.

She tells of the death of her third son, twelve years of age, with whom, and other children, she had taken refuge in Northumberland, while her husband and her older sons were in Holland. She saw the death of her child approaching, but feared that the thought of it was bitter to him. When in this state of anxiety she says, ‘One day, calling me to his bedside, he told me that the world had lost its attractions to him, and that he was resigned to die. I asked the reason of this, as his heart seemed to be otherwise set. He said that he had been praying and giving himself to Christ; that Christ had assured him of the delight he took in his soul, and this had comforted him. Afterwards he said, “Is it not a wonder that Jesus Christ should have died for sinners? Oh, this is a good tale, and we should think often on it.” He frequently repeated these words, “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee,” which refreshed me,’ says his mother, ‘more than if I had been made heir of a great estate. Calling for his brother, who was at home, and his sisters, he blessed them all, and bade them farewell. On becoming unable to speak, he held up his hand while I spoke to him of death and heaven. At last, with his own hand he closed his eyes, and so we parted in hope of a glorious meeting.’

Ver. 26. ‘My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever,’ was the last verse on which the thoughts of Charles Wesley rested, and with which his sanctified genius rose to higher notes among angels and ransomed spirits. His death was like his life. He called his wife, and bade her write to his dictation. It was the last of seven thousand hymns, some of them the finest in the English language, which had swelled from his heart day and night, wherever he moved.

In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a sinful worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope thou art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart ;
0, could I catch a smile from thee,
And drop into eternity!


Psalm 73

Geneva Bible

Surely God is good to Israel,
to those who are pure in heart.
2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped;
I had nearly lost my foothold.
3 For I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
4 They have no struggles;
their bodies are healthy and strong.[a]
5 They are free from common human burdens;
they are not plagued by human ills.
6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
they clothe themselves with violence.
7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity[b];
their evil imaginations have no limits.
8 They scoff, and speak with malice;
with arrogance they threaten oppression.
9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven,
and their tongues take possession of the earth.
10 Therefore their people turn to them
and drink up waters in abundance.[c]
11 They say, “How would God know?
Does the Most High know anything?”
12 This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure
and have washed my hands in innocence.
14 All day long I have been afflicted,
and every morning brings new punishments.
15 If I had spoken out like that,
I would have betrayed your children.
16 When I tried to understand all this,
it troubled me deeply
17 till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.
18 Surely you place them on slippery ground;
you cast them down to ruin.
19 How suddenly are they destroyed,
completely swept away by terrors!
20 They are like a dream when one awakes;
when you arise, Lord,
you will despise them as fantasies.
21 When my heart was grieved
and my spirit embittered,
22 I was senseless and ignorant;
I was a brute beast before you.
23 Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
27 Those who are far from you will perish;
you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
28 But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.
Written by John Ker, D. D.
Taken from, “The Psalms in History and Biography,”
Wikipedia, and other sources.
Edited for thought and sense.

Regeneration and the Regenerate Man

Written by, David Dickson, c.1583–1663, was a Scottish theologian.
Taken and adapted from, Therapeutica Sacra
and from, Select Practical Writings of David Dickson, Vol. 1, 1845



We speak not here of the regeneration of elect infants dying in their infancy; God hath his own way of dealing with them; but of the regeneration of those who are capable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word, which we may thus describe.

Regeneration (being one in effect with effectual calling) is the work of God’s invincible power and mere grace, wherein, by his Spirit accompanying his word, he quickened a redeemed person lying dead in his sins, and renews him in his mind, will, and all the powers of his soul; convincing him savingly of sin, righteousness, and judgment, and making him heartily to embrace Christ and salvation, and to consecrate himself to the service of God in Christ, all the days of his life.

The main thing we must take heed to in this work is to give to God entirely the glory of his grace, and power, and wisdom, so that the glory of man’s regeneration be neither given to man, nor man made sharer of the glory with God; but God may have the whole glory of his free grace, because out of his own good will, not for any thing at all foreseen in man, he lets forth his special love on the redeemed in a time acceptable. And the glory of his almighty power, because by his omnipotent and invisible working, he makes the man dead in sins to live, opens his eyes to take up savingly the things of God, takes away the heart of stone, and makes him a new creature, to will and to do his holy will. And the glory of his wisdom, who deals so with his creature, as he doth not destroy, but perfect the natural power of man’s will, making the man regenerated, most freely, deliberately, and heartily to embrace Christ, and to consecrate himself to God’s service. The reason why we urge this, is, because Satan, by corrupting the doctrine of regeneration, and persuading men that they are capable of themselves, by the common and the natural strength of their own free will, without the special and effectual grace of God, both to convert themselves and others also, doth foster the native pride of men; hinders them from emptying and humbling themselves before God; keeps them from self-denial; doth mar the regeneration of them that are deluded with this error, and obscures what he can, the shining of the glory of God’s grace, power, and wisdom, in the conversion of men. For whatsoever praise proud men let go toward God for making men’s conversion possible, yet they give the whole glory of actual conversion to the man himself, which Christ ascribes to God only, and leaves no more for man to glory in his spiritual regeneration, than he hath to glory in his own natural generation, (John 3:5-8). And the same doth the apostle teach, (Eph 2:8-10, and Phil 2:13). “It is God (saith he) which works in you both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.” And therefore it is the duty of all Christ’s disciples, but chiefly their duty who are consecrated to God, to preach up the glory of God’s free grace, omnipotent power, and unsearchable wisdom; to live in the sense of their own emptiness, and to depend upon the furniture of grace for grace, out of Christ’s fulness; and zealously to oppose the proud error of man’s natural ability for converting himself; as they love to see and find the effectual blessing of the ministry of the gospel, and themselves accepted for true disciples, at the day of their meeting with Christ the judge at his second coming.

For opening up of regeneration, these five propositions must be holden.

The First is this – “The natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for, they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” (1 Cor 2:14).

The Second is this – It is the Spirit of God which convinces man of sin, of true righteousness, and of judgment, (John 16: 9-11).

The Third is this – In the regeneration, conversion, and quickening of a sinner, God, by His invincible power, creates and infuses a new life, and principles thereof, “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power,” (Ps 110:3, John 5:21, 6:63).

The Fourth is this – The invincible grace of God, working regeneration and a man’s conversion, doth not destroy the freedom of man’s will, but makes it truly free, and perfects it. “I will make a covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah, and will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts,” (Jer 31:31).

The Fifth is this – Albeit a man, in the act of God’s quickening and converting of him, be passive, and in a spiritual sense dead in sins and trespasses, yet, for exercising external means, whereof God makes use unto his conversion, for fitting him, and preparing him for a gracious change (such as are, hearing of the word, reading it, meditating on it, inquiring after the meaning of it,) the natural man hath a natural power thereunto as to other external actions; which suffices to take away excuse from them who have occasion of using the means, and will not use them (Matt 23:37).

For clearing of the first proposition, we must remember, that the object of actual regeneration, conversion, and effectual calling, is the man elected or redeemed by Christ, lying in the state of defection from God, destitute of original righteousness, at enmity with God, bently inclined to all evil, altogether unfit and impotent, yea, even spiritually dead to every spiritual good, and specially to convert, regenerate, or quicken himself. For albeit after the fall of Adam, there are some sparks of common reason remaining, whereby he may confusedly know that which is called spiritually good, acceptable and pleasant unto God, and fit to save his soul; yet the understanding of the unrenewed man judges of that good, and of the truth of the Evangel wherein that good is propounded, to be mere foolishness; and doth represent the spiritual object, and sets it before the will, as a thing uncertain or vain: and the will of the unrenewed man, after deliberation and comparison made of objects, some honest, some pleasant, and some profitable in appearance, naturally is inclined to prefer and choose any seemingly pleasant or profitable thing, whether the object be natural or civil, rather than that which is truly honest, and morally good. But if it fall out that a spiritual good be well, and in fair colours described unto the unrenewed man, yet he seeth it not, but under the notion of a natural good, and as it is clothed with the image of some natural good, and profitable for preserving its standing in a natural being and welfare therein. So did the false prophet Balaam look upon the felicity of the righteous in their death, when he did separate eternal life from faith and sanctification, and did rend asunder the means from the end appointed of Gad, saying, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” (Num 23:10).

After this manner the woman of Samaria apprehended the gift and grace of the Holy Ghost, and saving grace offered to her by Christ: “Lord,” saith she, “give me of that water, that I may not thirst again, and may not come again to draw water,” (John 4:15). So also did the misbelieving Jews judge of the application of Christ’s incarnation and suffering, for their spiritual feeding, (John 6:33-35); for, “the natural man cannot know the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned,” and the natural man is destitute of the spirit of illumination, (1 Cor 2:14). And the wisdom of the flesh is enmity to God; for it is not subject to the law of God, yea, it cannot be subject unto it, (Rom 8:7). The power, therefore, of the natural or unrenewed man, is not fitted for the discerning, and loving of a spiritual good, because he is altogether natural and not spiritual; for a supernatural object requires a supernatural power of the understanding and will to take it up, and rightly conceive of it. But of this supernatural faculty the unrenewed man is destitute, and in respect of spiritual discerning, he is dead, that he cannot discern spiritual things spiritually.

As for the second proposition regarding a man’s regeneration, the Lord, that he may break the carnal confidence of the person whom he is to convert, first, shows him his duty by the doctrine of the law and covenant of works, making him to see the same by the powerful illumination of the Holy Spirit, and so, taketh away all pretext of ignorance. Secondly, he shows him his guiltiness and deserved damnation wherein he is involved, and so, taketh away all conceit and imagination of his innocency. Thirdly, he doth convince him of his utter inability to satisfy the law, or to deliver himself from the curse thereof, either by way of action and obedience, or by way of suffering, and paying the penalty of the violated law of God; and so, overturned all confidence in himself, or in his own works. Whence followeth the elect man’s desperation to be delivered by himself, because he sees himself a sinner, and that all hope of justification by his own deeds or suffering is cut off. Now, that this is the work of the Holy Spirit, is plain: “When the Comforter, the Spirit of truth shall come, he shall convince the world of sin,” (John 16:8). And in this condition sundry of God’s dear children, for a time, are kept under the bonds of the law, under the spirit of bondage and sad conviction.

As for the third proposition, the Lord, after He hath laid the sins of his elect child who is to be converted, to his charge, by the doctrine of the law, first, opens up a light unto him in the doctrine of the gospel, and lets him see that his absolution from sin, and his salvation is possible, and may be had, by flying unto Christ the Redeemer. Secondly, the Lord drawing near the humbled self-condemned soul, deals with him by way of moral persuasion, sweetly inviting him in the preaching of the gospel, to receive the Redeemer, Christ Jesus, the eternal Son of God manifested in the flesh, that by receiving of Him as he is offered in the evangel, for remission of sin, renovation of life, and eternal salvation, he may close the covenant of grace and reconciliation with God. Thirdly, because the fall of Adam hath bereft man of all spiritual and supernatural power, till he be supernaturally quickened and converted by the omnipotent power of God’s grace, therefore, the Lord super adds unto moral persuasion, effectual operation, and forms in the soul a spiritual faculty and ability for doing what is pleasant unto God, and tends to save himself according to the will of God. This infusion of a new life, sometimes is called the forming of the new creature; sometimes regeneration; sometimes rising from the dead, and vivification, or quickening of the man; sometimes saving grace, and the life of God, and the seed of God; having in it the principle of all saving graces and habits, which are brought forth afterward to acts and exercise.

Meantime, true it is that all men, because of their inborn corruption, have an inclination and bent disposition to resist the Holy Ghost; but when the Lord will actually convert the man, he overcomes  and taketh away actual resistance, and doth so break the power of natural rebellion, that it doth not for ever after reign in him. For if God did not take away actual resistance of the man in his conversion, no conversion would certainly follow, and God would be disappointed of his purpose to convert the man, even when he hath put forth his almighty power to work conversion. But God doth so wisely and powerfully stir up this newly infused life of grace, and sets it so to work, that the understanding and judgment, like a counsellor, and the will, like a commanding emperor, and the active power of the newly infused faculty, like an officer, do all bestir themselves to bring forth supernatural operations. Whence it cometh to pass, that the new creature begins to look kindly on Christ the Redeemer, and to desire to be united unto him; and doth stretch forth itself to embrace him heartily, for obtaining in him righteousness and salvation, as he is offered in the gospel. And so, he casts himself over on Christ, with full purpose never to shed from him, but by faith to draw out of him grace for grace, till he be perfected. And here, the man that was merely passive in his quickening and regeneration, begins presently to be active in his conversion, and following conversation, for God giveth to him to will and to do of his good pleasure; and he, having obtained by God’s effectual operation to will and to do, doth formally will and do the good which is done.

As to the fourth proposition, when the power of God is put forth invincibly for the converting of a soul, that invincible working is so far from destroying the natural liberty of the will, that it doth indeed preserve it, and sets it right on the right object, and doth perfect it. For, as when God opens the eyes of a man’s understanding that he doth behold the wonders of his law, when he removes the natural blindness of the mind, and makes a man to see that the gospel is the wisdom and power of God unto salvation, which sometimes he counted to be mere foolishness, he doth in no way destroys the man’s judgment or understanding; but doth correct, help, heal, and perfect it – so, when the Holy Spirit doth powerfully and effectually move and turn the will of the man to embrace the sweet and saving offers of Christ’s grace in the gospel, and make him deliberately choose this blessed way of salvation, and to renounce all confidence in his own, or any other’s worth or works, he doth not destroy, but perfect the liberty of the will, and raises it up from death and its damnable inclination, and makes it most joyfully and most freely to make choice of this pearl of great price, and bless itself in its choice for ever. Therefore, let no man complain of wrong done to man’s free-will, when God stops its way to hell, and wisely, powerfully, graciously and sweetly moves it to choose the way of life: but rather let men beware to take the glory of actual conversion of men, from God, and either give it wholly to their idol of free-will, or make it sharer of the glory of regeneration with God; which glory God will not give to another, but reserve wholly to himself; for all men, in the point and moment of regeneration, are like unto Lazarus in the grave, to whom God by commanding him to arise, gave life and power to arise out of the grave where he lay dead and rotting.

As to the fifth proposition, we must distinguish the work of regeneration, from the preparation and disposition of the man to be regenerated, whereby he is made more capable of regeneration to be wrought in him. For the material disposition of him, fitting him for regeneration, is neither a part nor a degree of regeneration; for albeit the Lord be not bound to these preparatory dispositions, yet he will have man bound to make use of these external means which may prepare him; because by the use of external means, (such as are, hearing the word, catechising and conference), a man may be brought more near unto regeneration, as Christ doth teach us by his speech to that Pharisee, who was instructed in the law, and answered discreetly unto Christ; “Thou art not far (saith he) from the kingdom of God,” (Mark 12:34). This preparatory disposition, in order to regeneration, is like unto the drying of timber to make it sooner take fire, when it is casted into it. For dryness in the timber, is neither a part nor a degree of kindling or inflammation of it; but only a preparation of the timber to receive inflammation when the fire shall be set to it, or it be put in the fire, possible, a long time after. In these preparatory exercises then, no man will deny, that the natural man unrenewed, hath a natural power to go and hear a sermon preached, to read the scripture, to be informed by catechising and conference of religion and regeneration, whereof God when he pleaseth may make use in regeneration of the man. Wherefore, whosoever in the preaching of the gospel, are charged and commanded to repent, to believe in Christ, or turn unto God, they are commanded also to use all these external means whereby they may be informed of the duty required, and of the means leading thereunto; in the exercise of which external means, they may meet with sundry common operations and effects of God’s Spirit, before they be regenerated or converted, whereof the use may be found not only in, but also after, conversion. And if any man shall refuse, slight, or neglect to follow these preparatory exercises, which may prepare him for conversion, he is inexcusable before God and man, and guilty of rejecting the offer of reconciliation; yea, guilty of resisting the Holy Ghost, of which sin and guiltiness, the holy martyr Stephen charges the misbelieving Jews, (Acts 7:51).


As for the regenerate man, he it is who in the acknowledgment of his sinfulness and deserved misery, and of his utter inability to help himself, doth cast away all confidence in his own parts, and possible righteousness of his own works, and flees to Christ offered in the gospel, that in Christ alone he may have true wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and doth with full purpose of heart consecrate himself, and endeavour, in the strength of Christ, to serve God acceptably all the days of his life.

For the ground of this description, we have the words of the apostle, where putting a difference between the true people of God, and the counterfeit, he saith, “We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Jesus Christ, and have not confidence in the flesh,” (Phil 3:3).

In which description of the regenerate man, the apostle first points forth unto us three special operations of the Spirit of regeneration; then, three duties of the man regenerated.

The first operation of the Spirit of God, the only circumciser of the heart, is the humbling of the man in the sense of his sin, by the doctrine of the law, and cutting off all his confidence in his own worth, wit, free-will, and strength to help himself, so that the man hath no confidence in the flesh.

The second operation, is the infusion of saving faith, making the man humbled to close with Christ in the covenant of reconciliation, and to rest upon Him as the only and sufficient remedy of sin and misery; so that Christ becometh to him the ground of rejoicing and glorifying.

The third operation, is the up-stirring and enabling of the believer in Christ, to endeavour new obedience, and to worship God in the Spirit.

 As for the three duties of the man regenerated,

The first is, to follow the leading of the Spirit in the point of more and more humbling of himself before God in the sense of his own insufficiency, and eschewing of all leaning on his own parts, gifts, works, or sufferings, or any thing else beside Christ: he must have “no confidence in the flesh.”

The second duty, is to grow in the estimation of Christ’s righteousness, and fulness of all graces to be led forth to the believer, enjoying him by faith, and comforting himself in Christ against all difficulties, troubles, and temptations: he must rejoice in Jesus Christ.

The third duty, is to endeavour communion-keeping with God in the course of new obedience in all cases, worshipping and serving God in sincerity of heart: he must be a worshipper of God.

As to the last thing holden forth in the apostle’s words, which is the undoubted mark and evidence of the man regenerated and circumcised in heart, it standeth in the constant endeavour to grow in these three duties jointly, so as each of them may advance another; for many failings and short-comings will be found in our new obedience, and worshipping of God in the spirit. But let these failings be made use of to extinguish and abolish all confidence in our own parts and righteousness, and that our daily failings may humble us, and cut us off from all confidence in the flesh.

But let not these failings so discourage us, as to hinder us to put confidence in Christ; but by the contraire, the less ground of confidence we find in ourselves, let us raise so much higher the estimation of remission of sin and imputation of Christ’s righteousness, and stir up ourselves by faith to draw more strength and ability out of Christ for enabling us to walk more holily and righteously before God. And having fled to Christ, and comforted ourselves in him, let us not turn his grace into wantonness; but the more we believe the grace of Jesus Christ, let us strive, in his strength, so much the more to glorify God in new obedience. And in the circle of these three duties, let us wind ourselves up stairs toward heaven; for God hath promised, that such “as wait on the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint,” (Is 40:31).

In the conjunction of these three duties, the evidence of regeneration is found. If there be not a sincere endeavour after all these three duties, the evidence of regeneration is by so much darkened, and short for probation: for it is not sufficient to prove a man regenerated, that he is driven from all confidence in his own righteousness, and filled with the sense of sin and deserved wrath; because a man that hath no more that, may perish in this miserable condition; as we see in Judas the traitor, whose conscience was burdened with the sense of sin, but did not seek mercy and pardon. Neither is it sufficient to boast of acquaintance with Christ, and profess great respect to him; because many do cry, “Lord, Lord!” who neither renounce their confidence in their own righteousness, nor worship God in spirit; for, of such Christ saith, “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of God,” (Matt 7:21). Neither is it sufficient to pretend the worshipping of God in spirit: for, all they who think to be justified by their own works, do esteem their manner of serving God, true and spiritual service and worship; as may be seen in the proud Pharisee glorying before God in his own righteousness, and acknowledging that God was the giver unto him of the holiness and righteousness which he had. “I thank thee, O God,” saith he, “that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican,” (Luke 18:11). For, of this man, Christ saith, he returned to his house unjustified, that is, a man lying still in sin, unrecognised.

Neither is it sufficient to prove a man regenerated, to confess sin and bygone unrighteousness, and to promise and begin to amend his ways and future conversation; for, so much may a Pharisee attain. And there be many that profess themselves Christians, who think to be justified by the merits of their own and other saints’ doings and sufferings, and do disdainfully scoff and mock at the doctrine of the imputed righteousness of Christ. How many are they also, who think their bygone sins may be washed away, and be recompensed by their purpose to amend their life in time to come? How many are they, who, being willingly ignorant of the righteousness of God, which is of faith in Jesus Christ, go about to establish their own righteousness, as the Jews did? (Rom 10:3). And how few are they who follow the example of the apostle, who carefully served God in spirit and truth, but did not lean to his own righteousness, but sought more and more to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which behoved to be made up of his imperfect obedience of the law, but that righteousness which is by the faith in Jesus Christ? (Phil 3:9).

But that man, who daily in the sense of his sinfulness and poverty flees unto Jesus Christ, that he may be justified by his righteousness, and endeavoured by faith in him to bring forth the fruits of new obedience, and doth not put confidence in these his works when he hath done them, but rejoices in Jesus Christ the fountain of holiness and blessedness, that man, I say, undoubtedly is regenerated, and a new creature, for so doth the apostle describe him, (Phil 3:3).

Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: David Dickson was born about the year 1583. His parents were religious, of considerable substance, and were many years married before they had David, who was their only child. As he was a Samuel asked of the Lord, so he was early devoted to Him and the ministry. Yet afterwards the vow was forgot, till Providence, by a rod and sore sickness on their son, brought their sins to their remembrance, and then he was sent to assume his studies at the University of Glasgow.

Soon after he had received the degree of Master of Arts, he was admitted professor of philosophy in that college, where he was very useful in training up the youth in solid learning; and, with the learned Principal Boyd of Trochrig, the worthy Mr Blair, and other pious members of that society, his labours were singularly blessed in reviving serious piety among the youth in that declining and corrupted time, a little after the imposition of Prelacy upon the Church. Accordingly, David Dickson was, in 1618, ordained minister to the town of Irvine, where he laboured for about twenty-three years.

That same year, the corrupt Assembly at Perth agreed to the five articles imposed upon the Church by King James IV and the prelates. David Dickson at first had no great scruple against Episcopacy, as he had not studied those questions much, till the articles were imposed by this Assembly. These he closely examined; the more he looked into them, the more aversion he found to them; and when some time after, by a sore sickness, he was brought within view of death and eternity, he gave open testimony of the sinfulness of them.

But when this came to take air, James Law, Archbishop of Glasgow, summoned him to appear before the High Commission Court, January 29, 1622. Dickson, at his entrance to the ministry at Irvine, had preached upon 2 Cor 5:11, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men;” and when he perceived at this juncture a separation (at least for a time), the Sabbath before his compearance he chose the next words of that verse, “But we are made manifest unto God.” Extraordinary power and singular movings of the affections accompanied that parting sermon.

David Dickson appeared before the Commission, where, after the summons being read, and after some reasoning among the bishops, he gave in his declinature; upon which, some of the bishops whispering in his ear, as if they had favoured him upon the good report they had heard of him and his ministry, said to him, “Take it up, take it up.” He answered calmly, “I laid it not down for that end, to take it up again.” Spottiswoode, Archbishop of St Andrews, asked if he would subscribe it. He professed himself ready. The clerk, at the Archbishop’s desire, began to read it; but had scarcely read three lines, till the Archbishop burst forth in railing speeches, full of gall and bitterness; and turning to Mr David, he said, “These men will speak of humility and meekness, and talk of the Spirit of God, but ye are led by the spirit of the devil; there is more pride in you, I dare say, than in all the bishops of Scotland. I hanged a Jesuit in Glasgow for the like fault.” Mr David answered, “I am not a rebel; I stand here as the King’s subject; grant me the benefit of the law, and of a subject, and I crave no more.” But the Archbishop seemed to take no notice of these words.

Aberdeen asked him, whether he would obey the King or not? He answered, “I will obey the King in all things in the Lord.” “I told you that,” said Glasgow, “I knew he would seek to his limitation.” Aberdeen asked again, “May not the King give the same authority that we have, to as many sutors and tailors in Edinburgh, to sit, and see whether ye be doing your duty or not?” Mr David said, “My declinature will answer to that.” Then St Andrews fell again to railing, “The devil,” said he, “will devise; he has Scripture enough;” and then called him knave, swinger, young lad; and said he might have been teaching bairns in the school. “Thou knowest what Aristotle saith,” said he, “but thou hast no theology.” Because he perceived that Dickson gave him no titles, but once called him Sir, he gnashed his teeth, and said, “Sir! you might have called me Lord; when I was in Glasgow long since, ye called me so, but I cannot tell how, ye are become a puritan now.”

All this time he stood silent, and once lifted up his eyes to heaven, which St Andrews called a proud look. So after some more reasoning betwixt him and the bishops, St Andrews pronounced his sentence, in these words: “We deprive you of your ministry at Irvine, and ordain you to enter in Turriff, in the north, in twenty days.” “The will of the Lord be done,” said Mr David; “though ye cast me off, the Lord will take me up. Send me whither ye will, I hope my Master will go with me; and as He has been to me heretofore, He will be with me still, as with His own weak servant.”

PART 6. The Law Is Not Incompatible with Grace!

Taken and adapted from, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom
Written by Samuel Bolton

The next part of our query will prove at once to vindicate the law…

…and overthrow the many erroneous opinions that are in conflict with it. Our proposition is that there was no end or use for which the law was given which was incompatible with grace and which was not serviceable to the advancement of the covenant of grace. This I hope to make good, and then it will be seen how the Gospel is in the law; also that the law is not that which some men make it out to be, that is, opposite to the Gospel and to grace; for I shall show that it may run along with grace, and be serviceable to the advancement of grace.

In the prosecution of this matter we shall follow this method:

(1) We shall first explain the chief and principal ends for which the law was promulgated or given;
(2) We shall explain how those ends are consistent with grace and serviceable to the advancement of the covenant of grace; and therefore that they may continue under grace;
(3) We shall answer such objections as may be raised against this doctrine;
(4) We shall sum up the matter in few words and make a brief application.

Seven Purposes For Which The Law Was Given

There are two main ends to be observed, one was political, the other theological or divine. The political use is hinted at by the apostle in 1 Tim. 1. 8-9: ‘Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for man-slayers’, etc; that is, it was made for them in such fashion that, if it were not their rule, it should be their punishment. Such is the political use of the law.

Its second great purpose was divine, or theological; and this is two-fold, as seen in those who are not justified, and as seen in those who are justified. In those who are not justified, the law first reveals their sin to them, humbles them for sin, and so drives them to Christ. In those who are justified it acts first of all as a doctrine to drive them to duty, next as a glass to reveal their defects so that they may be kept humble and may fly to Christ, next as a restrainer and corrector of sin, and then again as a reprover of sin (2 Tim. 3. 16).

The principal and chief ends for which the law was promulgated:

(1) To restrain transgression; to set bounds and banks to the cursed nature of fallen man, not only by revealing sin, but also the wrath of God against sin: ‘tribulation and anguish to every soul of man that doeth evil’ (Rom. 2. 8-9). We read in Gal. 3. 19 that ‘the law was added because of transgressions’. This Scripture Jerome and Chrysostom understand to refer to the restraining of transgressions. The law may restrain sinners, though it cannot renew sinners; it may hold in and bridle sin, though it cannot heal and cure it. Before God gave the law, sin had a more perfect reign. By reason of the darkness of men’s understandings, and the security of their hearts (Rom. 5. 13-14), death reigned, and so sin, from Adam to Moses, as the apostle shows. Therefore God might give them the law to show them, not only that they sinned in such courses as they walked in, but to show them also that heavy wrath of God which they drew upon themselves by their sin, the effect of which might be to restrain them in their course of sin, and to hinder sin so that it could not now have so complete and uncontrolled a dominion and reign in the soul. Though it continued to reign – for restraining grace does not conquer sin, though it suppresses and keeps it down – yet it could not have full dominion. The sinners would be in fear, and that would serve to restrain them in their ways of sin, though not to renew them.

If God had not given a severe and terrible law against sin, such is the vileness of men’s spirits, they would have acted all villainy. The Devil would not only have reigned, but raged in all the sons of men. And therefore, as we do with wild beasts, wolves, lions, and others, binding them in chains that they may be kept from doing the mischief which their inclinations carry them to, so the law chains up the wickedness of the hearts of men, that they dare not fulfil those lustful inclinations which are found in their hearts.

Blessed be God that there is this fear upon the spirits of wicked men; otherwise we could not well live in the world. One man would be a devil to another. Every man would be a Cain to his brother, an Amnon to his sister, an Absalom to his father, a Saul to himself, a Judas to his master; for what one man does, all men would do, were it not for a restraint upon their spirits. Naturally, sin is oblivious to sense and shame too. There would be no stay, no bank, no bounds to sin, without the law. Therefore we have cause to bless God that he has given a law to restrain transgression, that if men will not be so good as they should be, yet, being restrained, they become not so bad as they would be. Were it not for this, and for the awe that God has cast upon the spirits of wicked men by means of it, there would be no safety.

The fields, the streets, your houses, your beds, would have been filled with blood, uncleanness, murder, rapes, incests, adulteries, and all manner of mischief. If there were no law, saying, Thou shalt do no murder’, men would make every rising of passion a stab. If there were no law saying, ‘Thou shalt not steal’, men would think theft, deception, cheating, and oppression good policy, and the best life would be ‘ex rapto vivere’ (living by robbery), living by other men’s sweat. If there were no law saying, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’, men would defile their neighbour’s bed, and commit all manner of wickedness.

For these reasons God has given a law to set bounds and banks to defend us against the incursions and breaches that sin would make upon us. He that sets bounds and banks to the raging sea, which otherwise would overflow the land, also sets bounds and banks to men’s sins and sinful affections. It is no less wonder that the deluge of lust and corruption in men does not break forth to the overflowing of all banks, than that the sea does not break forth upon us, but He that sets bounds to the one, also binds and restrains the other. This, then, is one purpose God has in giving the law.

(2) Secondly, the law was given to uncover and reveal transgression, and this, I conceive, is the true meaning of the apostle’s words in Gal. 3. 19: The law was added because of transgressions’, that is, chiefly, that the law might be ‘instar speculi’ (like a glass) to reveal and discover sin. Therefore says the apostle: ‘Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet’ (Rom. 7. 7). The apostle seems to say the same thing in Rom. 5. 20: The law entered that the offence might abound’, that is, that sin might appear exceedingly sinful. And this is another end God had in giving the law, to open, to reveal, to convince the soul of sin. And this was with reference to the promise of grace and mercy.

It was for this reason God gave the law after the promise, to reveal sin and to awaken the conscience, and to drive men out of themselves, and bring them over to Christ. Before He gave the law, men were secure and careless. They did not esteem the promise and the salvation which the promise offered. They did not see the necessity for it. Therefore God gave the law to discover sin, and by that to reveal our need of the promise, that in this way the promise and grace might be advanced. In giving the law, God did but pursue the purpose of mercy He had in giving the promise, by taking a course to make His Gospel worthy of all acceptation, that when we were convinced of sin, we might look out for and prize a Saviour; when we were stung by the fiery serpent, we might look up to the brazen serpent – in all this, I say, God was but pursuing the design of His own grace.

(3) Thirdly, the law was given to humble men for sin, and this is a fruit of the former, as we have it in Rom. 3. 19-20:, Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God’, that is, sensible of their own guilt. We were no less guilty before, but now by the law men are made sensible of their own guilt, for, says the apostle, By the law is the knowledge of sin’. It is also written, Where there is no law, there is no transgression’ (Rom. 4. 15), that is to say, no transgression appears where there is no law to discover it, or no transgression is charged upon the conscience where there is no law to discover sin. This seems to be excellently set out in Rom. 5. 13-14:, Until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses’, etc. The meaning is, there was no less sin, or guilt and death, before the law than after; sin reigned, and death reigned over all the sons of men, and it reigned the more because it reigned in the dark; there was no law given by which sin was discovered and revealed to them, and to help to charge sin upon them. And so the apostle says, ‘Sin is not imputed when there is no law’, that is, though sin and death did reign, yet men were secure and careless, and having no law to discover sin to them, they did not charge their own hearts with sin; they did not impute sin to themselves. Therefore God renewed the law, promulgating it from Sinai, to discover and impute sin to men, to charge them with sin. I will explain the matter by means of a similitude.

Suppose a debtor to owe a great sum of money to a creditor, and the creditor out of mere mercy promises to forgive him all the debt, yet afterwards sends forth officers to arrest and lay hold of him; it would be concluded that the man was acting contrary to himself and had repented of his former promises, when actually he had not changed at all and had repented of nothing, his only desire being that his mercy might be the more conspicuous and evident in the thoughts of the debtor; therefore he allows him to be brought to these extremities that he may become the more thankful. The case is the same between God and us. We are deeply indebted to God. To Abraham, and to us in him, God made a promise of mercy, but men were careless and secure, and though they were guilty of sin, and therefore liable to death, yet, being without a law to evidence sin and death to their consciences, they could not see the greatness of the mercy which granted them a pardon. Thereupon God published by Moses a severe and terrible law, to reveal sin, to accuse men of sin, and to condemn men for sin. Not that God intended that the sentence should take hold of the sinner, for then God would be acting contrary to Himself, but in order that thereby guilt might be made evident, men’s mouths stopped, and that they might fall down and acknowledge the greatness and riches of free grace and mercy. Thus it was in Job, as is shown fully in Job 33. 16-31. And again: ‘The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe’ (Gal. 3. 22).

(4) The law was given for a direction of life, a rule of walking to believers. This I showed at large formerly: that though the law as a burden to the conscience is removed, yet it is not removed for purposes of obedience. If it were needful, I might pursue this matter further, to strengthen believers. The moral law is certainly perpetual and immutable. It is an everlasting truth that the creature is bound to worship and obey his Creator, and so much the more bound as he has received great benefits. This is a truth which is as clear as the light, and, surely, to be free from obedience is to be servants unto sin, as already showed.

(5) The law was given, not only as a director of duties, but as a glass to reveal the imperfections in our performance of duties, that so we might be kept humble and vile in our own eyes, and that we might live more out of ourselves and more in Christ. It was given so that we might fly to Christ upon all occasions, as a defiled man flees to the fountain to be washed and cleansed, for in Christ there is mercy to cover, and grace to cure all our infirmities.

(6) The law was also given as a reprover and corrector for sin, even to the saints; I say, to discipline them, and to reprove them for sin. ‘All Scripture… is profitable for doctrine and reproof (2 Tim. 3. 16), and this part of Scripture especially for these ends, to be ‘instar verberis’ (like a scourge), to correct and chastise wantonness, and correct a believer for sin. As says Calvin: ‘The law by teaching, warning, admonishing, correcting, prepares us for every good work. ‘

(7) The law was given to be a spur to quicken us to duties. The flesh is sluggish, and the law is ‘instar stimuli’ (of the nature of a spur or goad) to quicken us in the ways of obedience. Thus much, then, for the ends for which the law was given.

Five Reasons Why the Law Is Not Incompatible With Grace

I am next to show that there was no end for which the law was given which was incompatible with grace and which might not be serviceable to the covenant of grace; therefore the law may remain in force to be serviceable under grace.

1. The law was given to restrain transgressions, and it is of the same use now. It restrains wicked men from sin, though it has no power to renew and thus change them. Fear may restrain, though it cannot renew men. Fear may suppress sin, though faith alone conquers and overcomes sin. The law may chain up the wolf, but it is the Gospel that changes the wolfish nature; the one stops the streams, the other heals the fountain; the one restrains the practices, the other renews the principles. And who does not see that this is the ordinary fruit of the law of God now? It was the speech of a holy man that Cain, in our days, has not killed his brother Abel; that our Amnon has not defiled his sister Tamar, that our Reuben has not gone up to his father’s couch; that our Absalom has not conspired the death of his father. It is because God restrains them. For this reason was the law added, and for this purpose it continues, to restrain wicked men, to set bounds and banks to the rage of men’s lustful hearts.

2. Secondly, the law was given to discover and reveal transgressions, and this is not inconsistent with grace; nay, it serves to advance it, and it still continues for this end, even to discover and reveal transgressions in believers, to make sin and misery appear, and by that means to awaken the conscience to fly to Christ. Hence the apostle says: ‘Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made’ (Gal. 3. 19). Some take ‘seed’ here to mean the saints of God, and make this the meaning, that so long as there are any to be brought to Christ, so long will there be the use of the law to reveal sin both in the unregenerate, that they may fly to Christ, and in the renewed, that they may learn to direct all their faith, hope, and expectation on Christ still. Whether this interpretation holds good or not, yet this is firm truth, that the law remains with us for this purpose, to reveal sin to us., Where no law is, there is no transgression’ (Rom. 4. 15), that is, no sin is discovered; where there is no law to perform this work, sin does not appear. But ‘the law entered that the offence might abound’ (Rom. 5. 20), not only to bring sin to light, but to make it appear exceedingly sinful. The words of the apostle put this beyond all question, I had not known sin but by the law’ (Rom. 7. 7). The law was the revealer of sin to him. He says in verse 13: ‘But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. ‘

It is clear, therefore, that the law still retains this use; it discovers sin in us. T had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (Rom. 7. 7); and similarly with all sins. This it does, after grace has come, as well as before grace; that which was sin before is sin now; grace does not alter the nature of sin, though it does set the believer free from the fruits and condemnation of it.

3. Thirdly, the law was added to humble us for sin. This also agrees with grace, and its usefulness in this respect still remains, though some would deny it. Sin is the great reason for humiliation, and that which is a glass to discover sin, must needs upon the discovery of it, humble the soul for it. In respect of this, read Rom. 3. 19-20 and Gal. 3. 22. In this regard it may be said that the law is not against the promises of God (Gal. 3. 21), ‘but the Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe’. The apostle says that the law is not against the promises. The affirmative interrogations which he employs are the strongest negations. And he shows why the law is not against the promise, because it is subservient to the promise.

‘The law serves the cause of the Gospel’, says Chamier, because, convicting men of their works of condemnation, it prepares them to seek the grace which is found in the Gospel.‘

The law concludes men under sin; it humbles them, convinces them of sin, that so the promise might be given. Hence it is said in Gal. 3. 24: ‘Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.’ He speaks of the same law as is mentioned earlier in the chapter, which seems (by verse 22) to be the moral law. And how is this the schoolmaster, but by lashing us, humbling us for sin, and driving us to Christ? Or if it is argued that it was the ceremonial law which is meant by the schoolmaster, yet the moral law was the rod. The master does little without the rod, nor the ceremonial law without the moral law. It is the moral law which drives men to the ceremonial law, which was in former days Christ in figure, as it does now drive us to Christ in truth.

Thus the law remains, an instrument in the hand of the Spirit, to discover sin to us, and to humble us for it, that so we might come over to Christ. If the avenger of blood had not followed the murderer, he would never have gone to the city of refuge, and if God does not humble us we would never go to Christ. An offer of Christ and of pardon before men are humbled is unavailing. Men do by this as those did who were invited to the supper; they made light of it. Just so, men make light of a pardon, and of the blood of Christ. But when once God has discovered sin to them; when the law has come to them, as it came to Paul, with an accusing, convincing, humbling, killing power. Oh then, Christ is precious, the promise is precious, the blood of Christ is precious. I conceive that this was the main end for which God gave the law after the promise, to cause sinners to value the promise. Men would not have known the sweetness of Christ if they had not first tasted of the bitterness of sin.

4. Fourthly, the law was given for a direction of life, and so it does still remain and serve, as I have already fully proved. Though we are sons, and are willing to obey, yet we must learn how to direct this willing disposition. I say, though we are sons and are guided by the Spirit, and though in our love to God we are ready for all service, yet we need the Word of God to be a light unto our feet and a lantern to our paths. God has made us sons and he has given us an inheritance; and now He gives us a rule to walk by, that we may express our thankfulness to Him for His rich mercy. Our obedience is not the cause and ground of His act of adoption, but the expression of our thankfulness and of the duty we owe to God who has adopted us. God therefore did not give the rule, and afterwards the promise; but first the promise, and then the rule, to show that our obedience was not the ground of our acceptance, but a declaration of our gratitude to the God who has accepted us. Thus it remains our rule of walking, yet in Christ. It must be our rule in Christ; we must obey by the strength of Christ. Obedience begins from Christ, not that we work for an interest in Christ, but we get such an interest that we may work.

The law, say some of our divines, was given with evangelical purposes, that is, with purposes subservient to the Gospel. And I say it must be obeyed from evangelical principles, principles rooted in Christ. The law shows us what is good, but gives us no power to do it. It is ‘lex spiritualis’ (a spiritual law), holy, just and good; but it is not ‘lex spiritus’ (the law of the spirit); this is alone in Christ, as the apostle speaks in Rom. 8. 2: ‘The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’. The law shows us what is holy, but cannot make us holy, as long as it is a rule outside of us. It cannot make us holy, for that necessitates a rule within us.

The law is a principle within us first, and then a pattern without us. We are not made holy by imitation, but by implantation. But that principle found within sends us to the law as to the rule without, after which we are to conform our lives without. When the law is once our principle, it then becomes our pattern.

5. Fifthly, the law was given us as a glass to reveal our imperfections in duty, and for this purpose the law remains with us. Through it we perceive the imperfections of our duties, our graces, and our obedience. By this means we are kept close to Christ and kept humble. The law takes us away from reliance on ourselves and casts us upon Christ and the promises.

Thus have we seen God’s purposes and ends in introducing the law; we have also seen how these ends are not only consistent with grace, but also serviceable to the advancement of the work of grace. 

ELIJAH: A flight from Glory


AS UNSPEAKABLY grand as had been the scene on Mount Carmel, we instinctively feel that it was the outcome of the Old Testament.

But we cannot conceive it possible under the New Testament dispensation. In so saying we do not so much refer to the ironical taunts which Elijah had addressed to the priests of Baal, when compassion, gentleness, and meekness might have seemed befitting, since it was necessary effectually to expose the folly as well as the sin of idolatry, and this was best done in such manner (comp. Isa. 40:18, etc. ; 41:7 ; 44:8-22; 46:5-1 1 ; Jer. 10:7, etc.). Nor do we allude only or mainly to the destruction of the priests of Baal. This was simply in obedience to the Old Testament Law, and was grounded alike on its economy, and on the circumstances of the time. Taking the lowest view, it was an act of necessary self-preservation, since the two religions could not co-exist, as the conduct of Jezebel had recently proved. But there is a higher view than this of the event. For the fundamental object of Israel’s calling and existence –the whole typical import and preparatory purpose of the nation –was incompatible with even the existence of idolatry among them. Finally, there is this essential difference between the Old and the New Testament dispensation”that under the latter, religion is of personal choice, heart willingness being secured by the persuasion of the Holy Ghost; while under the Old Testament (from its nature) religion was of Law. Religious liberty is a principle which necessarily follows from a religion of free choice, where God no longer addresses Himself to man merely, or mainly, with the authority of a general Law, but appeals to the individual conscience with the persuasion of a special invitation.

Under the Old Testament, of which the fundamental principle was the sole Divine authority of Jehovah (Ex.20:2, 3), idolatry was not only a crime, but a revolt against the Majesty of heaven, Israel’s King, which involved the most fatal consequences to the nation. Yet even so, we repeat it, the scene on Mount Carmel could not have been enacted in New Testament times.

But while fully admitting this distinctive standpoint of the preparatory dispensation, it would be a most serious mistake to forget that the Old Testament itself points to a higher and fuller manifestation of God, and never more distinctly then in this history of Elijah. Attention has already been called to the analogy between Elijah and John the Baptist. At this stage we specially recall three points in the history of the latter. It seems as if the Baptist had expected that his warning denunciations would be immediately followed either by visible reform,or else by visible judgment. But instead of this he was cast, at the instigation of Herod’s wife, into a dungeon which he was never to leave; and yet judgment seemed to slumber, and the Christ made no movement either for the deliverance of His forerunner, or the vindication of his message.

And, lastly, in consequence of this disappointment, spiritual darkness appears to have gathered around the soul of the Baptist. One almost feels as if it had been needful for such a messenger of judgment to become consciously weak, that so in the depression of the human the Divine element might appear the more clearly. And it was also good that it should be so, since it led to the inquiring embassy to Christ, and thus to a fuller revelation of the Divine character of the Kingdom. The same expectation and the same disappointment are apparent in the history of Elijah on the morrow of the victory at Carmel. But they also led up to a fuller manifestation of the meaning and purpose of God. Thus we see how the Old Testament itself, even where its distinctive character most clearly appeared, pointed to that fuller and more glorious manifestation of God, symbolized, not by storm, earthquake, or fire, but by “the still small voice.”

If Elijah had lingered in Jezreel in the hope that the reformation proclaimed on Mount Carmel would be followed up by the king, he was soon to experience bitter disappointment. There is, however, good reason for inferring that the impression then made upon the mind of Ahab was never wholly effaced. This appears not only from the subsequent relations between the king and prophets of the Lord (1 Kings 20), but even from his tardy repentance after the commission of his great crime (i Kings 21:27-29). Indeed, it might almost seem as if, but for the influence of Jezebel upon the weak king, matters might at least temporarily have taken a different turn in Israel.

But if such was the effect produced upon Ahab by the scene on Mount Carmel, we can understand that Jezebel’s first wish must have been as soon as possible to remove Elijah from all contact with the king. For this purpose she sent a message, threatening the prophet with death within twenty-four hours. It need scarcely be said, that, if she had been so bold as really to purpose his murder, she would not have given him warning of it. and that the reference to twenty-four hours as the limit of his life must rather have been intended to induce Elijah to immediate flight. And she succeeded in her purpose “not, indeed, from just fear on the part of the prophet, but also from deep disappointment and depression, for which we may in some measure find even a physical cause in the reaction that must have followed on the day after Carmel.

Strange as it may seem, these felt weaknesses of men like Elijah come upon us with almost a sense of relief. It is not only that we realize that these giants of faith are men of like passions with ourselves, but that the Divine in their work is thereby the more prominently brought out. It deserves special notice that Elijah proceeded on his hasty journey without any Divine direction to that effect. Attended only by his faithful servant, he passed without pausing to the farthest boundary of the neighbouring kingdom of Judah. But even that was not his final destination, nor could he in his then mood brook any companionship. Leaving his servant behind, he went into the wilderness of Paran. In its awful solitude he felt himself for the first time free to rest. Utterly broken down in body and in spirit he, cast himself under one of those wide-spreading broom trees, which seemed as if they indicated that even in the vast, howling wilderness, the hand of the Great Creator had provided shelter for His poor, struggling wanderer.

There is something almost awful in the life-and-death conflicts of great souls. We witness them with a feeling akin to reverence. The deep despondency of Elijah’s soul found utterance in the entreaty to be released from work and suffering. He was not better than his fathers; like them he had vainly toiled; like them he had failed; why should his painful mission be prolonged? But not so must he pass away. Like Moses of old, he must at least gain distant view of the sweet land of beauty and rest. As so often, God in His tender mercy gave His beloved the precious relief of sleep. And more than that, he was to have evidence that even there he was not forsaken.

An angel awakened him to minister to his wants. God cares for the body; and precious in His sight is not only the death, but also the felt need of His people. The same great Jehovah, whose manifestation on Carmel had been so awful in its grandeur, condescended to His servant in the hour of his utmost need, and with unspeakable tenderness, like a mother, tended His weary child. Once more a season of sleep, and again the former heaven-given provision for the journey which he was to make –now in the guidance of God.


Written by, Alfred Edersheim, M.A., D.D., Phd.
Edited for thought and sense


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Alfred Edersheim (March 7, 1825 – March 16, 1889) was a Jewish convert to Christianity and a Biblical scholar known especially for his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883). 

Edersheim was born in Vienna of Jewish parents of culture and wealth. English was spoken in their home, and he became fluent at an early age. He was educated at a local gymnasium and also in the Talmud and Torah at a Hebrew school, and in 1841 he entered the University of Vienna. His father suffered illness and financial reversals before Alfred could complete his university education, and he had to support himself.

He converted to Christianity in Pest when he came under the influence of John Duncan, a Church of Scotland chaplain to workmen engaged in constructing a bridge over the Danube. Edersheim accompanied Duncan on his return to Scotland and studied theology at New College, Edinburgh and at the University of Berlin. In 1846 Alfred was married to Mary Broomfield. They had seven children. In the same year he was ordained to the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland. He was a missionary to the Jews at Iaşi, Romania for a year.

On his return to Scotland, after preaching for a time in Aberdeen, Edersheim was appointed in 1849 to minister at the Free Church, Old Aberdeen. In 1861 health problems forced him to resign and the Church of St. Andrew was built for him at Torquay. In 1872 Edersheim’s health again obliged him to retire, and for four years he lived quietly at Bournemouth. In 1875 he was ordained in the Church of England, and was Curate of the Abbey Church, Christchurch, Hants, for a year, and from 1876 to 1882 Vicar of Loders, Bridport, Dorset. He was appointed to the post of Warburtonian Lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn 1880-84. In 1882 he resigned and relocated to Oxford. He was Select Preacher to the University 1884-85 and Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint 1886-88 and 1888-89.

Edersheim died at Menton, France, on March 16, 1889.

Can a man rob God… by being a doer of the Word?

Taken from, Light Shining in Darkness
Written by, William Huntington
Edited for thought and sense.


But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
–James 1: 22.

This text as well as many more, has had the misfortune of falling into the hands of thieves…

…thieves and robbers, who have stripped it of its meaning, and leave it half dead to its owners. I mean such thieves and robbers as are aiming at heaven; but not by the door of mercy opened by the blood and righteousness of Christ; but who are climbing up another way, a way not cast up by Christ, a way that is right in their own eyes, though in the judgment of God it is the way of death; this thievery is robbing Christ of his honor, as the only way to the Father; and God of his glory, who, in his pity and compassion to ruined man, contrived this way. But will a man rob God ? Yes he will. No wonder then that God says by the law of retaliation, “Behold I come as a thief.”

This text is applied, by the blind leaders of the blind, to make a fair show in the flesh, and to those in flesh make it appear as a voluntary humility. Yes, this text is also used by those who in a blind zeal encompass sea and land to make a proselyte like unto themselves; and yes, it is also used by all such who would appear outwardly righteous before men.

But, if these blind leaders are the unlawful heirs of this text, then think about how the papists, especially the nuns among them, use this passage. Yes, and make sure that you include the Jewish scribes and pharisees and our British advocates for free will, with every other branch of the “in bondage” family, for each of these may claim it, for these all use works, but does God work in them?

James, this great apostle, will tell us himself what he means by this passage. This passage is the word of life, sent home to our hearts, by God. And this word is to be applied by the Holy Spirit. Here the sovereign and good will of God is set forth to his people, which implies that this “making alive” is not of him that wills, nor of him that runs. The creation of us is wholly owing to God’s own free will and good pleasure, as such, it is our new birth. Our creation is not the will of flesh, nor the will of man, but of God. And he makes us alive from a death in sin, from a death in law, from a death to all works of service; and we are made alive in the Spirit, and to a lively hope, which is by the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Our God, is the God of salvation, and unto God the Lord belongs the issues of death.

Those that God makes alive are called the firstfruits of his creatures. But was all the harvest, all the crops of the holy land, carried into God’s sanctuary? No; only the first fruits. Was all that the fig tree or the pomegranate tree bore offered to God? No; only the fruit that was first ripe. And does God create all his creatures to live by the word of truth? No; only the first fruits of his creatures. These fruits are gathered from among the rest, which are called creatures, which bear untimely fruits, wild grapes, etc., and are called corrupt trees, with corrupt fruit; and are distinguished from God’s fruit by being called the vintage and harvest of the wicked.

But do those legal workers submit to the sovereign and good will of God? No; they blaspheme the counsel of his will. Are they made alive from death? No; they are under the ministration of it, and stick to it, and contend for their own dead works. Do they receive the word of truth, with which we are begotten, in an honest and good heart? No; their doctrines, writings, sermons, and confessions, are not the word of truth, but confusion and falsehood. The first fruits of his creatures here spoken of were first ripe in the council of God, first ripe under the son of righteousness; they first trusted in Christ, and are the first that shall rise from the dead.

Christ is the firstfruits of all, and these first fruits are God’s creatures reserved unto Him.

But alas! These laborers, who labor for that which is not bread, and who spend money for that which satisfies not, are sad enemies to these first fruits, redeemed from among men; they contend with the creatures, and cleave to them; they contend for the world, for universal redemption; they despise the free woman and love the bond woman; they hate Zion, and cleave to Sinai; they lampoon the first fruits, and assist the corrupt fruits. And surely such works can never be called doing the word; for he that labors aright must first be a partaker of the fruits of the Spirit, and be taken himself out of the world, out of the flesh, and out of legal bondage, and bondage to sin, before he can be called a first fruit of God’s creatures.

The Heart of the Fisherman: “The Art of Man- Fishing.” Part 3.

Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.


Ministers are fishers by office…

…they are catchers of the souls of men, “sent to open the eyes of the blind, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God,”

Preachers of the gospel are fishers, and their work and that of fishers agree in several things.

  1. The design and work of fishers is to catch fish. This is the work that preachers of the gospel have taken in hand, even to endeavor to bring souls to Christ. Their design in their work should be the same. Tell me, O my soul, what is thy design in preaching? For what end do you lay the net in the water, is it to show thy gifts, and to gain the applause of men? Oh, no! Lord, you know my gifts are very small; and had I not some other thing than them to lean to, I would never gone to a pulpit. I confess, that, for as small as they are, the devil and my corruptions do sometimes present them to me in a magnifying glass, and so would blow me up with wind. But, Lord, you know it is my work to repel these, motions.
  1. The fisherman’s work is hard work; they are exposed to much cold in the water. So is the minister’s work.
  1. A storm that will frighten others, they will venture on, that they may not lose their fish. So should preachers of the gospel do also.
  1. Fishers catch fish with a net. So preachers have a net to catch souls with. This is the everlasting gospel, the word of peace and reconciliation, wherewith sinners are caught. It is compared to a net wherewith fishers catch fish,
    1. Because it is spread out, ready to catch all that will come into it, Isaiah 45:1, ” Ho, every one that thirst, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price.” God excludes none from the benefits of the gospel that will not exclude themselves; it is free to all.
    2. Because as fish are taken unexpectedly by the net, so are sinners by the gospel. Zaccheus was little thinking on salvation from Christ when he went to the tree. Paul was not thinking on a sweet meeting with Christ, whom he persecuted, when he was going post-haste on the devil’s errand; but the man is caught unexpectedly. Little were you thinking, O my soul, on Christ, heaven, or thyself, when you went to hear a preaching, when Christ first dealt with thee; there you got an unexpected cast.
    3. As fish sometimes come near and touch the net, and yet draw back; so many souls are somewhat affected at the hearing of the gospel, and yet remain in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. So Herod heard John the Baptist gladly, but yet the poor man was not caught. Wonder not then, O my soul, you see some affected in the time of preaching; and yet when they are away again, all is worn off.
    4. Some fish that have not been taken fast hold enough by the net, struggle and get out again. So some souls have their convictions, and may seem to be caught; but yet, alas! They stifle all their convictions, stay in the place of the breaking forth; their goodness is like the morning cloud, and as the early dew that soon passes away. Wherefore, O my soul, if ever you be taken up with exercised consciences, have a care that you do not apply the cure before the wound be deep enough. Take all means to understand whether the soul be content to take Christ on his own terms or not. Alas! Many this way, by having the wound scurfed over, are rather killed than cured.
    5. All that are taken in the net do make some struggling to get free. Even so everyone whom the Lord deals with by his Word and Spirit, make some kind of resistance before they are thoroughly caught. And this you also know, O my soul, how you wouldst have been content to have been out of the net. Oh! The wickedness of the heart of man by nature! Opposite is it, and an enemy to all that may be for its eternal welfare. There is indeed a power in our will to resist, yea, and such a power as cannot but be exercised by the will of man, which can do nothing but resist, till the overcoming power of God, the gratia victrix, come and make the unwilling heart willing, Phil. 2:13.
    6. Yet this struggling will not do with those which the net has fast enough. So neither will the resistance do that is made by an elect soul, whom God intends to catch, John 6: 37. All that the Father hath given me, shall come to me. Indeed, God does not convert men to himself against their will, he does not force the soul to receive Christ; but he conquers the will, and it becomes obedient. He that was unwilling before, is then willing. O the power of grace! When God speaks, then men shall hear; then is it that the dead hear the voice of the Son of Man, and they that hear do live.
    7. In a net are many meshes in which the fish are caught. Such are the invitations made to sinners in the gospel, the sweet promises made to them that will come to Christ; these are the meshes wherewith the soul is caught. This then is gospel-preaching, thus to spread out the net of the gospel, wherein are so many meshes of various invitations and promises, to which if the fish do come, they are caught.” But yet,
    8. Let the net be lifted up with the water, and so not fit for taking fish, and the fish slight it, and pass under it; there are some pieces of lead put to it, to hold it right in the water, that it may be before them as they come. So l invitations and promises of the gospel be slighted, there must be used some legal terrors and law threatenings to drive the fish into the net. Thou see then that both law and gospel are to be preached, the law as a small portion of the gospel-net, which makes it effectual; the law being a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.
    9. The meshes must not be over-wide, or the fish run through. So neither must thy doctrine be general, without particular application, l you be no fisher of men. Indeed men may be the better pleased, when you preach doctrine so as wicked men may run out-through and in-through it, than when you make it so as to take hold of them: but be not a servant of men.
    10. Neither must they be too neat and fine, and curiously wrought, or they hold out the fish. So have a care, O my soul, of striving to make by wit any fine and curious discourse, which thy hearers cannot understand. 
  1. Fishermen observe in what places they should cast their nets, and where they may expect fish. So do you, O my soul, observe where you might catch lost souls. There are two pools wherein the net should be set.
    1. In the public assemblies of the Lord’s people. There it was that Lydia’s heart was opened. The pool of ordinances sometimes is made healing water to souls pining away in their iniquity.
    2. In private conference. Many times the Lord is pleased to bless this for the good of souls. Some have found it so. But more of these things afterwards, when I come to following Christ.
  1. Lastly, Fishers may toil long, and yet catch nothing; but they do not therefore lay aside their work. So may preachers preach long, and yet not catch any soul, Isa. 49:4, and 53:1; but they are not to give over for all that. O my soul, here you art checked for thy behavior at some times under the absence of Christ from ordinances, when you hast been ready to wish you had never taken it in hand. This was my sin: the good Lord pardon it. It becomes me better to lie low under God’s hand, and to inquire into the causes of his withdrawing his presence from me and from ordinances, and yet to hold on in duty till he be pleased to lay me by. Have a care of that, O my soul, and let not such thoughts and wishes possess thee again. Forget not how God made thee to read this thy sin, in thy punishment, Diary, Nov. 13, 1698. Hold on, O my soul, and give not way to these discouragements. Thou know not but Christ may come and teach thee to let down the net at the right side of the ship, and you may yet be a fisher of men. Trust God you shalt yet praise him for the help of his countenance as you hast done, and perhaps for some souls that you may be yet honored to catch.

And thus I have briefly considered these things. But the main question that I would have resolved is, how may I come by this art? What way I shall take to be a fisher of men? How I may arrange and set the net, that it may bring in souls to God?

ELIJAH: A pastor among wolves, and Ahab’s desperate decision



Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.
–1 Kings 18:21

In the breathless silence that ensued upon this challenge Elijah now stood forward…

…and pointing to the white-robed crowd of priests over against him, he recalled to king and people that he and he only remained, that is, in active office and open profession –a prophet of Jehovah. Single-handed, therefore, he would go to the contest, if contest of power it were against that multitude.

Power! They worship as God the powers of nature; let them then make trial as to on whose side these powers which are in nature are arrayed. Let this be the test: the priests of Baal on their side, and he on his, would each choose a bullock and prepare it for sacrifice, but not kindle the fire beneath,” and it shall be the Elohim who shall answer by fire, He is the “Elohim.”

A shout of universal assent greets the proposal. Under the circumstances it would be of greatest practical importance that the futility of Baal-worship should be exhibited in the fullest manner. This explains the details of all that follows. Besides, after a whole day of vain appliance of every resource of their superstition, the grandeur of Jehovah’s majestic interposition would also make the deeper impression. But although from Elijah’s point of view it was important that the priests of Baal should first offer their sacrifice, the proposition was one to which no objection could be taken, since Elijah not only gave them the choice of the sacrificial animal, but they were many as against one. Nor could they complain so far as they regarded the test proposed by Elijah, since their Baal was also the god of fire, he was the very Sun-god himself.

Now commences a scene which baffles description. Ancient writers have left us accounts of the great Baal-festivals, and they closely agree with the narrative of the Bible, and only furnish further details. First rises a comparatively moderate, though already wild cry to Baal; followed by a dance around the altar, beginning with a swinging motion to and fro. The howl then becomes louder and louder, and the dance more frantic. They whirl round and round, running wildly through each other’s ranks, always keeping up a circular motion, the head low bent, so that their long disheveled hair sweeps the ground.

Ordinarily the madness now became infectious, and the onlookers join in the frenzied dance. But Elijah knew how to prevent this. It was noon, and for hours they have kept up their wild rites. With cutting taunts and bitter irony Elijah now reminds them that, since Baal was Elohim, the fault must lie with them. He might be otherwise engaged, and they must cry louder. Stung to madness, they become more frantic than before, and what we know as the second and third acts in these feasts then ensues. The wild howl passes into piercing demoniacal yells. In their madness the priests bite their own arms and cut themselves with the two-edged swords which they carry and with lances.

As blood begins to flow the frenzy reaches its highest pitch, when first one, then others, commence to “prophesy,” moaning and groaning, then bursting into rhapsodic cries, accusing themselves, or speaking to Baal, or uttering incoherent broken sentences. All the while they beat themselves with heavy scourges, loaded or armed with sharp points, and cut themselves with swords and lances, sometimes even mutilating themselves –since the blood of the priest was supposed to be specially propitiatory with Baal.

Two more hours of this terrible scene have past, and their powers of endurance must have been all but exhausted. The sun has long passed its meridian, and the time of the regular evening-sacrifice in the Temple of Jehovah at Jerusalem has come. From the accounts of the Temple-times left us, we know that the evening sacrifice was offered “between the evenings,” as it was termed, that is, between the down going of the sun and the evening.

In point of fact, the evening Temple service was to commence between two and three p.m. It must have been about the same time that Elijah begins the simple yet solemn preparations for his sacrifice. Turning from the frantic priests to the astonished people, he bids them to draw nigh. They must gather around him, not only in order to be convinced that no deception is being practiced, but to take part with him, as it were, in the service.

And once more Israel is to appear as the Israel of old in happier times, undivided in nationality as in allegiance to Jehovah. This was the meaning of his restoring the broken place of former pious worship by rolling to it twelve of the large pieces of rock that have strewed the ground, according to the number of the tribes. And as he builds the altar, he consecrates it by prayer: “in the name of Jehovah.” Next, the soft crumbling calcareous soil around the altar are dug into a deep and wide trench. Then the wood, and upon it the pieces of the sacrifice are laid in due order. And now, at the prophet’s bidding, willing hands fill the pitchers from the well close by. Once, twice, thrice he pours the water over the sacrifices, till it runs down into the trench, which he also fills.

This, as we suppose, was not merely to show the more clearly that the fire, which consumes the sacrifice in such circumstances, is sent from heaven, but also for symbolic reasons, as if to indicate that Israel’s penitent confession is being poured upon the offering. And now a solemn silence falls upon the assembly. The sun is going down, a globe of fire behind Mount Carmel, and it covers the mountain with a purple glow. It is time for the evening sacrifice.

mt carmel elijahBut Jehovah, not Elijah, would do this miracle; the Hand of the living God Himself must be stretched out. Once more it was prayer which moved that Hand. Such prayer was not heard before –so calm, so earnest, so majestic, so assured, so strong. Elijah appeared in it as only the servant of Jehovah, and all that he had previously done was only at His Word: but Jehovah was the Covenant-God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, manifesting Himself as of old as the Living and True, as Elohim in Israel: the conversion of Israel to Him as their God being the great object sought for…

He had said it as when first the Tabernacle was consecrated (Lev. 9: 24),or as when King Solomon (1 Chron. 21:26; 2 Chron. 7: 1) brought the first offering in the temple which he had reared to Jehovah, so now the fire of Jehovah leaps from heaven, consuming the sacrifice and the wood, wrapping and burning up the limestone rocks of which the altar was constructed, and with burning tongues lick up even the water that was in the trench. One moment of solemn silence, when all who has seen it falls in awe-stricken worship on their faces; then a shout which seems to rend the very air, and finds its echo far and wide in the glens and clefts of Carmel: “Jehovah, He the Elohim! Jehovah, He the Elohim!”

And so Israel is once more converted unto God. And now, in accordance with the Divine command in the Law (Deut. 13:13 ; 17:2, etc.), stern judgment must be executed on the idolaters and seducers; the idol-priests. The victory that day must be complete; the renunciation of Baal-worship beyond recall. Not one of the priests of Baal must escape. Down the steep mountain sides they hurried them, casting them over precipices, some fourteen hundred feet to the river Kishon, which is reddened with their blood. –But up on the mountain-top lingers King Ahab, astonished, speechless, himself for the time a convert to Jehovah. He also is to share in the sacrifice; he also is to eat the sacrificial meal. But it must be in haste, for already Elijah hears the sighing and low moaning of the wind in the forests of Carmel.

Elijah, himself takes no part in the feast. He has other bread to eat that they know not. He has climbed the topmost height of Carmel and out of sight of the king. None has accompanies him save his servant, whom tradition declares to be that son of the widow of Sarepta who was miraculously restored to life. A most fitting minister, indeed, he would be in that hour.

Once more it was agonizing prayer –not once, but seven times repeated. At each break, the faithful attendant climbs the highest knoll, and looks earnestly and anxiously over the broad expanse of the sea, which is there before him, glittering in full view. At last it comes –a cloud, as yet not bigger than a man’s hand.

But when God begins to hear a prayer, He will hear it abundantly; when He gives his blessing, it will be without stint. Ahab must be up, and quick in his chariot, or the rain, which will descend in floods, will clog the hard ground, so that his chariot would find it difficult to traverse the six miles across the plain to the palace of Jezreel. And now as the foot of the mountain is reached, the heaven is black with clouds, the wind moans fitfully, and the rain now comes in torrents.

But the power of Jehovah was upon the Tishbite. He girds up his loins and runs before the chariot of Ahab. On such a day he hesitates not to act as outrunner to this convert-king; nay, he would himself be the harbinger of the news to Jezreel. Up to the entrance of Jezreel he heralds them; to the very gate of Jezebel’s palace he goes before them, like the warning voice of God, ere Ahab again encounters his tempter.

But there the two must part company, and the king of Israel must henceforth decide for himself to whom he will cleave, whether to Jehovah or to the god of Jezebel.


Written by, Alfred Edersheim, M.A., D.D., Phd.
Edited for thought and sense


Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Alfred Edersheim (March 7, 1825 – March 16, 1889) was a Jewish convert to Christianity and a Biblical scholar known especially for his book The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah (1883). 

Edersheim was born in Vienna of Jewish parents of culture and wealth. English was spoken in their home, and he became fluent at an early age. He was educated at a local gymnasium and also in the Talmud and Torah at a Hebrew school, and in 1841 he entered the University of Vienna. His father suffered illness and financial reversals before Alfred could complete his university education, and he had to support himself.

He converted to Christianity in Pest when he came under the influence of John Duncan, a Church of Scotland chaplain to workmen engaged in constructing a bridge over the Danube. Edersheim accompanied Duncan on his return to Scotland and studied theology at New College, Edinburgh and at the University of Berlin. In 1846 Alfred was married to Mary Broomfield. They had seven children. In the same year he was ordained to the ministry in the Free Church of Scotland. He was a missionary to the Jews at Iaşi, Romania for a year.

On his return to Scotland, after preaching for a time in Aberdeen, Edersheim was appointed in 1849 to minister at the Free Church, Old Aberdeen. In 1861 health problems forced him to resign and the Church of St. Andrew was built for him at Torquay. In 1872 Edersheim’s health again obliged him to retire, and for four years he lived quietly at Bournemouth. In 1875 he was ordained in the Church of England, and was Curate of the Abbey Church, Christchurch, Hants, for a year, and from 1876 to 1882 Vicar of Loders, Bridport, Dorset. He was appointed to the post of Warburtonian Lecturer at Lincoln’s Inn 1880-84. In 1882 he resigned and relocated to Oxford. He was Select Preacher to the University 1884-85 and Grinfield Lecturer on the Septuagint 1886-88 and 1888-89.

Edersheim died at Menton, France, on March 16, 1889.

The Mind of Judas, Part 3 of 3

Written by Michael W. Pursley



There comes a time in our lives where once we commit ourselves to a course of action, where we have intentionally and unconditionally bound ourselves to a position of commitment, that outside of some unmerited act of grace from heaven, we have now come to a place where there is simply no withdrawal.

And so it is, from the time that Judas met with the Jewish leadership and committed himself to the betrayal of his Lord, his time and ability to completely and cleanly withdraw from his course of action had essentially come to an end.

Now, for the first time Jesus has two groups seeking his destruction, the Jewish leaders and a member of his own twelve. While it appears from all practical purposes that Jesus’ ministry was on the verge of dismal failure, Jesus here instead uses the to occasion to bring his ministry to a stunning climax which both fulfills the Father’s will, and completes the prophetic intent of scripture. This latter is an extremely important consideration, because one has to ask, why didn’t Jesus who knows all things from the Father, why doesn’t he go to Judas and have a heart to heart talk with him? Why doesn’t he confront Judas regarding his actions? Why doesn’t Jesus at least stop him from committing so egregious an action; from letting Judas kill the Messiah, the Savior of Israel? Did Jesus not realize, that he was consigning Judas to bearing the guilt of killing the Son of God? –except “that the scriptures might be fulfilled.”

Perhaps another interesting question is, if Judas thought that he had cleanly succeeded in negotiating the betrayal unbeknownst to Christ? I certainly would not have wanted to have been Judas’ conscience at this point. Guilty? Unbelievably so. Jumpy? Like a cat on a hot tin roof. Every kind word Jesus directed to Judas would have been seen as accusatory. Every act of kindness from Jesus would have seemed doubly suspicious. The mind of the betraying disciple would have been working overtime analyzing and re-analyzing every word, action and expression. On one side, looking to see if he was discovered, on another, looking for justification for his actions, and on another, pitying his poor victim, and yet another, looking to the future to see how he may betray Christ; for “from that time he sought opportunity to deliver him unto them.” Matthew 16:26.

I think that it is safe to assume that Judas never wanted Jesus to die. For we find that when the death sentence had been pronounced upon Jesus, Judas hurried to undo the blasphemous transaction bitterly exclaiming, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”  –Matthew 27:4. We say this to his dubious credit, for the sentiment shows that this betrayal was not a simple act of revenge; it was much more complex than that.

Needless to say, for Judas, the anxiety levels were most likely close to intolerable. Something had to give. By looking to force the situation and thereby defusing it, Judas’ had instead made it both more unstable and more intolerable, especially for himself; for now, life was no longer about Jesus and the kingdom of God, it was about himself, and the state he found himself in, –which meant that he had to be miserable.

The next scene clearly involving Judas after his sell-out, occurs during the last supper. Typically, it is John’s Gospel that deals with the scene most elaborately as well as giving it a descriptive theological interpretation. It is found in John 13:21-30:  “After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answered,“It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.”

For all the disciples to ask Jesus if they were the one who was going to betray him, shows that this group, on this evening, had an exceptionally unsettled state of mind. Remember, the disciples are on hostile territory and they are hunted. Despite the miracles, things seem to be gong badly. They have been hearing over the last several days that their life together was coming to an end. And instead of sounding confident and victorious, Jesus is sounding sorrowful, pensive, perhaps even resigned. Now, on this particular evening, with these ongoing statements of death bothering them, they are introduced to yet another dimension –death is by betrayal. And worse, it was going to be an inside job, for one of them, one of the trusted twelve, is doing it. I find it interesting that Judas wasn’t the first to inquire, “Is it I?” Instead he waits; finally, with a sinking heart, Judas asks, “Is it I?” It must have been to the worst of his expectations that Jesus says “yes.” But if he had any question as to whether Jesus really meant it was him, that was about to be dispersed. For the final clarion note on this matter is about to sound. And with awful finality, Jesus looks at him and says, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

It’s over, the gig is up. Now it is time for Judas to go to his new masters and to deliver on his side of the bargain. Judas might have even felt a sense of relief at this turn of events. Whatever delusions of jealousy, or pride, feelings of being slighted or snubbed, however melt into insignificance, for “then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him.” The resolve that Judas now felt was not his own, it was Satan’s. The last flame of grace once strong, growing weaker, now at once flickers and dies away. John noting this, completes the description…“And it was night.” Yes, Jesus and the disciples were experiencing a night of discouragement, and even depression. But for Judas it was different. For Judas was experiencing an altogether different kind of night; for him it was a night of eternal spiritual darkness and for those who experience it, this is a darkness co-inhabited with Satan. This darkness is like no other darkness. For as John expresses it, this is the night of the soul, this is a night to which there is no morning.

What feelings might Judas now be experiencing? Did he feel Satan’s giddiness sliding through his soul? Was he feeling hatred for his old master and for the stupid disciples? Or was he simply looking forward to a new life somewhere else? Perhaps, he just felt numb, like he lost part of himself but in haziness of mind not quite knowing how to place it. We don’t know. I am sure there was a smothering of some feelings. But what we do know is that he was bent upon finishing his singular task; which was to give up the future whereabouts of Jesus.

This he did. At once, the Jewish priests and leaders began rounding up their posse of devoted and loyal followers from their celebrations of high passover. And this had to be a difficult task at best. But here we look around and ask, where was Judas at this point, did they keep him there? Did they give him some simple task, so he wouldn’t revert back to Jesus and warn him? Did they treat him with disgust after he gave them the information they had required? Did they treat him as a traitor or renegade, which is typical treatment for those kind of people by their new benefactors? We don’t know. But we do know this, that he stayed close to the action. For as soon as judgment is pronounced, we find Judas back again in front of the same leaders in desperate appeal; “for I have betrayed innocent blood” Matthew 27:4. I think that the Pulpit Commentary describes Judas’ sentiments precisely.

“By speaking of “blood,” he showed that he knew the murder was certain. Judas seems to have had no faith in Christ’s Divinity, but he had perfect assurance of his holiness and innocence, and felt, and endeavored to make the rulers feel, that an iniquitous sentence had been passed, and that a guiltless person was condemned to death. This consideration added to the bitterness of his regret.” But it was too late.

As is often the case, the consequences of his actions were going forward now with a life of their own. The situation for Judas was now unresolvable. For he who thought himself the master of the situation, now finds he has badly over played his hand. His dreams of success for this venture and for himself, utterly destroyed.

There is one more thing here worth noting; Satan may enter his victim, but that does not mean that the victim completely loses his conscience. In fact, quite often the reverse is true. The conscience may often be overstimulated, leading to a breakdown of judgment and healthy perspective. In the end the overburdened conscience lends itself to desperation and to desperate acts of violence, degradation and death. In the final awful scene Judas both pronounces and executes judgment on himself; “And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged himself.” –Matthew 27:5

“Wicked men see little of the consequences of their crimes when they commit them, but they must answer for them all. In the fullest manner Judas acknowledged to the chief priests that he had sinned, and betrayed an innocent person. This was full testimony to the character of Christ; but the rulers were hardened. Casting down the money, Judas departed, and went and hanged himself, not being able to bear the terror of Divine wrath, and the anguish of despair.” –Matthew Henry Concise Commentary.

Hence we see that Judas died as he had lived, believing to the end that he alone was the “Captain of his own ship.”

[Originally, I had planned to stop here, but I must write a postscript. It would not be complete unless we look at the differences between the repentance of Judas and Peter. I say this for if we look closely, each had effectively betrayed Christ, and Peter did so while calling curses down upon himself. (see Mark 14:71). Here, I must confess that there was a time in my life where I thought that there just might be a possibility that Judas would also be saved. It all seemed so unfair! Each had repented! Each repentance looked remarkably similar. Only the end of each repentance was different, and that could be explained as due to temperament or state of mind. But there was one vast underlying divergence. And it is this divergence that we shall look at in our postscript as we look at: “The Repentance of Judas… and Peter.” –MWP]

The sin that is called the sin unto death, or the unpardonable sin in the Old Testament

Taken from, Light Shining in Darkness
Written by, William Huntington
Edited for thought and sense.



“Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.” — Exod. 23:20-21.

This was the caution, and the unpardonable sin is in it…

…but they presumed, and rebelled against him at the entrance of Canaan, and would not obey him. Acts 7: 39.

Yes, they despised him, and made a captain over them, to return again to Egypt; thus they refused the Captain of our salvation, and then provoked him by going up the hill, after he had sworn in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. Thus, says Paul, they tempted Christ, they provoked and grieved him forty years, and by choosing a new captain, despised him; and then went up to sight contrary to his word, oath, and commandment; and thus they provoked and despised the Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ; so they entered not into the promised land because of unbelief; for he, having delivered them out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed them which believed not: and in this sense it may he truly said that they to whom the gospel was first preached entered in not because of unbelief.

This sin is called the sin unto death, because every other sort of sinner has had repentance unto life granted them; but these transgressors find no place of repentance, yes, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, and therefore it is called the sin unto death; because such a one sins out of the reach of the covenant and promise of life; yes, such a one sins against the living God in Christ and the promise of life him; against the Lord Jesus Christ, and eternal life by him; against the Spirit of God, and all his regenerating operations; and against the everlasting Gospel and all life and immortality brought to life through that; and to such the Gospel is the smell of death unto death in the worst sense; for the sinner, being dead in sin and dead in law when the gospel finds him, and being guilty of the great transgression against it after it was professed by him, it must then leave him twice dead, plucked up by the roots; that is, dead at Horeb and dead at Zion, and without hope either in the law or in the gospel.

The Mind of Judas, Part 2 of 3

Written by Michael W. Pursley


images (2)How did it happen? A fit of passion? Some festering need for revenge? Some uncontrollable urge which, in the heat of the moment, overmastered the will? A Satanic impulse that took possession of the heart? Can there be some resident evil in the human psyche which completely explains this betrayal of Christ?

There are a number of interesting things about the story of Judas, but one of which that strikes us first is the unlikelihood that those thirty pieces of silver would be the underlying motivation for the betrayal of Christ. Think about this, the Jewish priests and leaders were being offered the chance of a lifetime; the one unassailable thorn in their side, was about to be handed to them. Their growing existential nightmare of loss of influence, power, money, position, prestige, and significance, was about to be handed them on a platter, so to speak. Here was a chance to play the game on their turf; here was a chance for them to use the home field advantage; here was a chance for them to play the game they new best, to push the levers of power, to use the great geopolitical and religious machine they set up in the name of God and Israel, and to quietly but efficiently neutralize their opposition. What would they not have paid for the opportunity? “…You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” Now he did not say this on his own initiative…” John 11:49-51.

This was a dream too good to be true! The Jewish leaders and priests were describing this deal in terms of saving “the whole nation.” –Thirty pieces of silver? Save the nation? What a deal! I am going to guess here, with just a little sanctified imagination perhaps, but I am going to guess that the leaders did not offer Judas that sum of money. You see, from their perspective, they had no idea what he was thinking, the Jewish leaders knew that Judas knew that they wanted Jesus, and they knew that Judas knew they wanted Jesus bad, real bad. This was not a secret. What was also not a secret, was that the priests had almost unlimited funds which they could commit to this project; they had and could use the treasury of the Nation. I would not be surprised if these leaders spilled that kind of money over lunch. No, I think that they asked Judas how much he wanted.

But why 30 pieces of Silver? The word used in Matthew 26:15 ἀργύρια simply means “silver coins.” There were several coins circulating in the system at that time which could have been used. But I think that most likely it was the Tyrian shekel. Interesting to note, that because Roman coinage was only 80% silver, the purer (94% or more) Tyrian shekels were required to pay the temple tax in Jerusalem. The money changers referenced in the New Testament Gospels (Matt. 21:12 and parallels) exchanged Tyrian shekels for common Roman currency. This would, I think be the more likely coin that they would have had in hand. Also, Matthew does indicate that prophecy was fulfilled in regards to this exact amount by “what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet.” (Jeremiah 32) Namely, “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me” (Matthew 27:9–10).

However, there may be an even deeper prophetic meaning attached here. In Exodus 21:32, 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave. A number of scholars see the significance of this, and suggest that Matthew may also be saying that “Jesus’ death is a ransom, the price paid to secure a slave’s freedom.” Matthew 27:7 may even hint at the idea that “Jesus’ death makes salvation possible for all the peoples of the world, including the Gentiles.”

Once again, outside of the parameters of prophetic interpretation given by Matthew, we may never know precisely why the exact reason for 30 silver coins. But there maybe some other, additional considerations some from Judas’ perspective worth reflecting on. First, when Judas met with the Jewish officials, they most likely did not know his purpose for being there, so I am sure that they were hardly happy to see him. For Judas represented Jesus at that point, and did so until he finished stating his purpose for coming. With this in mind, Judas may have certainly felt himself on shaky footing during the discussion. He may have felt that this was the most dangerous part of the equation. He might have been afraid that he could have been put in jail at any moment. He might have even been a little “roughed up” on the way in or even during the interview. One thing for certain is that for Judas to have accepted 30 coins for the betrayal of Christ, does not bespeak the fact that he felt that he was entirely negotiating from a position of strength. And it is quite possible that even the Jewish leaders wondered as to whether Judas was as sharp as he thought he was. As such, there may have also been another possibility. The money may have only been a monetary “binder” into a larger agreement with the leaders. This could have certainly been the case if Judas had serious doubts about whether Jesus was truly the Messiah, sent from God.

From Judas’ perspective, this was a classic, if not the ultimate game of “playing each side against the middle.” On one side, Judas could be seen as putting Jesus into the position of rightfully assuming the Kingship of the nation, thereby Judas would be awarded for his sagacity, foresight and courage to precipitate the momentous and necessary event. And on the other hand, if Jesus was a fraud, then he, Judas would be rewarded by the Jewish leaders for his keen insight and remarkable courage to come forward. But whatever was in Judas’ mind at this point, one thing was for sure, the game was afoot, the betrayal was committed to, and purpose would soon be crystallized into action.

“Thirty pieces of silver”
Burns on the traitor’s brain;
“Thirty pieces of silver!
Oh! it is hellish gain!”

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